Last month my French food recipe was a pear dish and it is of no surprise as this is the time of year, pears and apples are being harvested and stored for the coming winter months.
I could reminisce about my younger days of climbing trees (yes, I was a bit of a tom boy) and shaking the apples from the apple trees when they were ripe – it was such good fun.
I was reminded of these days when staying with my son in Sussex last year and we gathered an enormous amount of really good apples. What was hilarious to me at the time was the fact that the chickens were also perched on the branches as we gathered the apples. To see the chickens in the trees was to me fascinating, I simply loved them.
We made apple pies, including French apple tarts and of course apple chutney - so delicious. I gave my neighbour some of the apples and she was very impressed with their flavour.
Of course, Kent and Sussex are known for their cider apple growing and a glass of local cider is always welcome when in the area.
In France, in the Normandy region they grow the apples for making Calvados which is a famous French brandy. It is distilled from cider or perry and aged in the French oak barrels for about two years.
Calvados is also the name of one of the original departments of which was formed during the French Revolution.
Legend has it that a shipping vessel, a galleon of the armada called the Calvador or el Salvador was wrecked on the coast of Normandy in 1588 and this is where the name of the department is derived from. Whether or not it is true is unsure but there have been distilleries in the area since around the 1600’s.
Being so near to Paris, it is a really good choice of area to stay for a holiday or a weekend break. It is often referred to as the countryside of Paris.
But to get back to the brandy, the French are very proud of their Calvados brandy and it is drunk as an aperitif as well as used in many French sauce recipes – one of which I have for you this month.
It is the type of soil which decides whether apples or pears are grown in the area. The apples have shorter roots and so they are more suited to the soil which is softer. Pears, having longer root systems and can grow well in the harder soils.
Calvados is made from apples and/or pears but these are not of the eating variety as they are very small and acidic There are about forty eight varieties which are suitable for making Calvados ranging from a very bitter to a very sweet fruit.
The Calvados brandy must contain 70% bitter and bitter sweet varieties. Also it must contain 30% acidic varieties. It is the pears that can give the sweetness needed in this combination which gives the brandy the fragrance and the bouquet.
Harvesting of the fruit takes place between September and January each year. If you decide to take a holiday in Calvados you may very well see some of the harvesting or indeed, have a taste of their famous brandy.
Calvados is very much a tourist destination being one of the most visited areas in France – mainly because of its seaside resorts which are among the some of the most prestigious in France. You will find luxurious hotels, casinos, wonderful countryside, manors, French castles, chalk cliffs, typical Norman houses, Bayeux with its famous tapestry, the famous D-day beaches and much more besides.
Food in the countryside of Calvados has abundance of specialities and apart from the cider and calvados brandy, there is the Camembert cheese, and the Pont l’Eeveque cheeses too. So staying in this region should be an absolute pleasure and don’t forget, as I said earlier, it is very near to Paris too!
The recipe I have chosen for you this month is one using the Calvados brandy. Of course you can have the brandy as an aperitif too which I recommend – however, it is the sauce that will make this dish simply divine and it is not a difficult one so don’t be alarmed. There is a little bit of igniting to do, so please keep the children away!
Other than that it is a beautiful dish, one everyone will love. Worried about your diet – don’t be – simply watch your portions, not too much and have a light meal tomorrow. Why miss out of something so delicious when you can be good tomorrow!
Chicken with Calvados
For Four People
- 1 chicken cut into portions
- 1oz/25g butter
- 3 tablespoons of Calvados brandy
- 2 egg yolks
- 8fl oz/225ml crème fraiche or double cream
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed flameproof casserole pan.
Place the chicken portions in the pan and season with salt and pepper.
Cook over a medium heat for about an hour.
Using a spoon, skim as much fat from the pan as you can.
This is when you will ignite your dish.
Pour the Calvados over the chicken pieces and bring the juices to the boil.
Now ignite the Calvados and wait for the flames to die down.
Place the chicken on a warm plate.
Mix the egg yolks into the cream or crème fraiche and mix it into the cooking juices in the pan – over a very low heat.
Beat the mixture with a wire whisk until it thickens but DO NOT LET IT BOIL.
Pour the sauce over the chicken pieces when you are ready to serve.
Serve your dish with boiled potatoes, sauté potatoes or rice.
I think a few French green beans are good with this dish too.